Health Literacy and Women's Reproductive Health: A Systematic Review

Kimberly A. Kilfoyle*, Michelle Vitko, Rachel O'Conor, Stacy Cooper Bailey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Background: Health literacy is thought to impact women's reproductive health, yet no comprehensive systematic reviews have been conducted on the topic. Our objective was to systematically identify, investigate, and summarize research on the relationship between health literacy and women's reproductive health knowledge, behaviors, and outcomes. Methods: PRISMA guidelines were used to guide this review. English language, peer-reviewed research articles indexed in MEDLINE as of February 2015 were searched, along with study results posted on Articles were included if they (1) described original data-driven research conducted in developed countries, (2) were published in a peer-reviewed journal, (3) measured health literacy using a validated assessment, (4) reported on the relationship between health literacy and reproductive health outcomes, related knowledge, or behaviors, and (5) consisted of a study population that included reproductive age women. Results: A total of 34 articles met eligibility criteria and were included in this review. Data were abstracted from articles by two study authors using a standardized form. Abstracted data were then reviewed and summarized in table format. Overall, health literacy was associated with reproductive health knowledge across a spectrum of topics. It was also related to certain health behaviors, such as prenatal vitamin use and breastfeeding. Its relationship with other reproductive behaviors and outcomes remains unclear. Conclusions: Health literacy plays an important role in reproductive knowledge and may impact behaviors and outcomes. While further research is necessary, healthcare providers should utilize health literacy best practices now to promote high-quality care for patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1237-1255
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2016


  • cancer screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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